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Students may complete a major or minor in Philosophy.


Robert J. Dostal, Professor, Acting Chair
Scott Edgar, Instructor
Carol Hay, Instructor
Christine M. Koggel, Professor (on leave 2007-08)
Michael Krausz, Professor (on leave semester I)
Morgan Wallhagen, Lecturer
George E. Weaver Jr., Professor (on leave semester II)

The Department of Philosophy introduces students to some of the most compelling answers to questions of human existence and knowledge. It also grooms students for a variety of fields that require analysis, conceptual precision, argumentative skill and clarity of thought and expression. These include administration, the arts, business, computer science, health professions, law and social services. The major in philosophy also prepares students for graduate-level study leading to careers in teaching and research in the discipline.

The curriculum focuses on three major areas: the systematic areas of philosophy, such as logic, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics; the history of philosophy through the study of key philosophers and philosophical periods; and the philosophical explication of methods in such domains as art, history, religion and science.

The department is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium comprising 13 member institutions in the Delaware Valley. It sponsors conferences on various topics in philosophy and an annual undergraduate student philosophy conference.

Major Requirements

Students majoring in philosophy must take a minimum of 10 semester courses and attend the monthly noncredit departmental colloquia. The following five courses are required for the major: the two-semester Historical Introduction (PHIL 101 and 201); Ethics (PHIL 221); Theory of Knowledge (PHIL 211), Metaphysics (PHIL 212) or Logic (PHIL 103); and Senior Conference (PHIL 399). At least three other courses at the 300 level are required. Majors must take one historical course that concentrates on the work of a single philosopher or a period in philosophy.

Philosophy majors are encouraged to supplement their philosophical interests by taking advantage of courses offered in related areas, such as anthropology, history, history of art, languages, literature, mathematics, political science, psychology and sociology.


Honors will be awarded by the department based on the senior thesis and other work completed in the department. The Milton C. Nahm Prize in Philosophy is a cash award presented to the graduating senior major whose senior thesis the department judges to be of outstanding caliber. This prize need not be granted every year.

Minor Requirements

Students may minor in philosophy by taking six courses in the discipline at any level. They must also attend the monthly noncredit departmental colloquia.


Students may take advantage of cross-registration arrangements with Haverford College, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. Courses at these institutions may satisfy Bryn Mawr requirements, but students should check with the chair of the department to make sure specific courses meet requirements.


No introductory-level course carries a prerequisite. However, most courses at both the intermediate and advanced levels carry prerequisites. Unless stated otherwise in the course description, any introductory course satisfies the prerequisite for an intermediate-level course, and any intermediate course satisfies the prerequisite for an advanced-level course.

PHIL B101 Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy

What is the fundamental nature of the world? Can we have knowledge about the world and ourselves, and if so, how? What is the good life? In this course, we explore answers to these sorts of metaphysical, epistemological and ethical questions by examining the works of the Pre-Socratics and of the two central Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. (Dostal, Edgar, Division III)

PHIL B102 Introduction to Problems in Philosophy

Contemporary formulations of certain philosophical problems are examined, such as the nature of knowledge, persons, freedom and determinism, the grounds of rationality, cognitive and moral relativism, and creativity in both science and art. (Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL B103 Introduction to Logic

Training in reading and writing proof discourses (i.e., those segments of writing or speech that express deductive reasoning) to gain insight into the nature of logic, the relationship between logic and linguistics, and the place of logic in theory of knowledge. (Weaver)

PHIL B201 Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Modern Philosophy

The development of philosophical thought from Descartes to Nietzsche. (Dostal, Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL B202 Culture and Interpretation

A study of methodological and philosophical issues associated with interpreting alternative cultures, including whether ethnocentrism is inevitable, whether alternative cultures are found or imputed, whether interpretation is invariably circular or relativistic, and what counts as a good reason for one cultural interpretation over another. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B202) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B204 Readings in German Intellectual History

(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as GERM B212)

PHIL B209 Introduction to Literary Analysis: Philosophical Approaches to Criticism

(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as COML B209 and GERM B209)

PHIL B211 Theory of Knowledge

This course will be an introduction to the theory of knowledge, or epistemology. We will examine in detail arguments about two central concerns of epistemologists in the 20th century: skepticism about our knowledge of objects in the external world and epistemological naturalism. (Edgar, Division III)

PHIL B212 Metaphysics

An examination of the issues that arise when we try to discern the fundamental nature of the world. What does it mean to say that something is real, objective, mind-independent or true? How do we go about deciding whether the world includes values, God, mind, numbers? Is there a reason to regard science's description of the world as depicting the world as it really is? (Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL B213 Introduction to Mathematical Logic

Equational logics and the equational theories of algebra are used as an introduction to mathematical logic. While the basics of the grammar and deductive systems of these logics are covered, the primary focus is their semantics or model theory. Particular attention is given to those ideas and results that anticipate developments in classical first-order model theory. Prerequisites: PHIL 103 and MATH 231. (Weaver, Division II; cross-listed as GNST B213) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B214 Modal Logic

This course examines the Kripke “possible world” semantics for a family of logics whose logical vocabulary contains “necessity” and “possibility.” Primary emphasis is given to sentential logics and the modal extensions. Techniques are developed for establishing completeness, compactness and interpolation results. Time permitting, both quantified modal logics and temporal logics will also be considered. Prerequisite: PHIL B103 or equivalent. (Weaver, Division II) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B221 Ethics

Are there any differences between moral judgments and judgments of personal taste, etiquette and aesthetics? Can moral judgments be made independently of religious considerations? Can they be made independently of cultural considerations? Should we decide what is morally right by looking at the consequences of our actions, or are some actions simply right in and of themselves? Do women and men approach moral problems differently? After examining questions like these in the first part of the course, we will turn to discuss specific moral questions such as abortion, animal rights, distributive justice, euthanasia, hate speech, pornography and sex equality. (Hay, Division III)

PHIL B222 Aesthetics: Nature and Experience of Art

What sorts of things are works of art, music and literature? Can criticism in the arts be objective? Do such works answer to more than one admissible interpretation? If so, what is to prevent one from sliding into an interpretive anarchism? What is the role of a creator's intentions in fixing upon admissible interpretations? What is the nature of aesthetic experience? Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources from the analytic and continental traditions. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B222) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B226 Introduction to Confucianism

(staff, Division III; cross-listed as EAST B226 and POLS B226) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B228 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ancient and Early Modern

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B228)

PHIL B229 Concepts of the Self

In this course, we will discuss several related philosophical questions about the nature of the self, introspection, self-knowledge and personal identity. What kind of thing is the self? Is the self identical with your body or something distinct from it? What is introspection? What are you conscious of when you are self-conscious? How does knowledge of your own thoughts, sensations and desires differ from other kinds of knowledge? What kinds of changes can you undergo and still remain the same person you were before? We will address these issues by reading work from both historical and contemporary sources. (Wallhagen, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B230 Discrete Mathematics

An introduction to discrete mathematics with strong applications to computer science. Topics include set theory, functions and relations, propositional logic, proof techniques, recursion, counting techniques, difference equations, graphs and trees. (Weaver, Division II and Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B231 and MATH B231)

PHIL B231 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Modern

(Barker, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B231)

PHIL B238 Science, Technology and the Good Life

This course considers questions concerning what is science, what is technology and what is their relationship to each other and to the domains of ethics and politics. We will consider how modern science defined itself in its opposition to Aristotelian science. We will examine the Cartesian and Baconian scientific models and the self-understanding of these models with regard to ethics and politics. Developments in the philosophy of science will be considered, e.g., positivism, phenomenology, feminism, sociology of science. Biotechnology and information technology illustrate fundamental questions. The “science wars” of the 1990s provide debates concerning science, technology and the good life. (Dostal, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B238) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B243 Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy

Surveys twentieth century continental philosophy: phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, Marxism and the Frankfurt school, structuralism and post-structuralism. and deconstruction. Themes include meaning and truth, the basis for ethics and politics, embodiment, language, the “other” and feminism. Philosophers discussed include Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Habermas, Heidegger, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. Prerequisites: PHIL B101 and PHIL B201. (Dostal, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B244 Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of human cognition. It goes from the abstract study of concepts of cognition at one end to well-defined empirical research into language and cognition and the specifics of cognitive modeling on computers at the other. Philosophy, linguistics, psychology, computer science and neuroscience are the major contributors to cognitive science. (Wallhagen, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B245 Philosophy of Law

(Elkins, Division I; cross-listed as POLS B245)

PHIL B246 Philosophical Skepticism

This course will examine philosophical arguments that purport to show that we cannot know the things we take ourselves to know. We will focus on the problem of induction, external world skepticism, the problem of other minds and self-knowledge. (staff, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B250 Topics in Chinese Cultural History

(staff, Division III; cross-listed as EAST B210 ) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B252 Feminist Theory

Is our culture still sexist, or is the need for feminism over? Are there experiences of oppression that are shared by all women? What should we think about sexism in other cultures? Do men and women have different natures? Why do women and not men stay home to raise the children in most families? We'll consider these questions, and others, by examining the arguments and methodology of analytic feminism and by exploring topics such as feminist analyses of sexual objectification in pornography, feminist arguments in philosophy of science and in ethics and social theory, and feminist criticisms of gendered labor. (Hay, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B253)

PHIL 263 Theory and Global Politics

(Barker; cross-listed as POLS 263)

PHIL B300 Nietzsche, Kant, Plato: Modes of Practical Philosophy

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B300) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B301 Hume

A close examination of Hume's philosophy, focusing on his psychology and its implications on his epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and ethics. His views on causation, substance, personal identity, induction, practical reasoning, free will and the basis of moral judgments are considered in detail. How Hume is related to other British and Continental philosophers, and the significance of his views for Kant as well as for a number of philosophical debates, are also examined. (staff, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B303 Advanced Mathematical Logic

This course develops various advanced topics in the branch of mathematical logic called model theory. Topics include homogeneous models, universal models, saturated and special models, back-and-forth constructions, ultraproducts, the compactness and Lowenheim-Skolem theorems, submodel complete theories, model complete theories, and omega-categorical theories. Prerequisite: PHIL 213 or Haverford's MATH 237. (Weaver; cross-listed as GNST B303) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B310 Philosophy of Science

An examination of positivistic science and its critics. Topics include the possibility and nature of scientific progress from relativistic perspectives. (Grobstein, Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as BIOL B310)

PHIL B314 Existentialism

This course will trace the development Existentialist philosophy from its origins in the 19th century through to its high-water mark in the mid-20th century, with special attention paid to central existentialist ideas such as authenticity and bad faith. Our concerns will include: existentialist conceptions of the self and of freedom; existentialist conceptions of faith and of morality; existentialist views of death; and existentialist perspectives on sex and gender. (Edgar, Division III)

PHIL B316 History and Philosophy of Mathematics

Epistemological problems, particularly in reference to mathematical realism, are examined and various solutions are discussed, with emphasis on “structuralist” solutions arising out of modern abstract algebra. Prerequisite: PHIL 103 or 214. (Weaver) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B317 Philosophy of Creativity

This course will address the following questions: What are the criteria of creativity? Is explaining creativity possible? Should we understand creativity in terms of persons, processes or products? What is the relation between creativity and skill? What is genius? What is creative imagination? Is there a difference between creativity in the arts and creativity in the sciences? What is the relation between the context of discovery and the context of justification? What is the relation between tradition and creativity? Is there a significant relationship between creativity and self-transformation? This course follows upon PHIL 222 Aesthetics, but does not presuppose it. (Krausz, Division III)

PHIL B318 Philosophy of Language: Early Analytic

In this course we will examine core philosophical questions about the nature of language and meaning. What are meanings, and how can linguistic entities (such as words and sentences) “have” them? How do words refer? How can they refer to non-existent entities (Santa Claus, Gandalf)? What is the relation of language to thought? We shall also consider the (supposed) importance of the analysis of language to philosophy (and the so-called “Linguistic Turn” in philosophy). We shall address these questions primarily through a study the writings of the early analytic philosophers, especially Frege, Russell and the early Wittgenstein. (Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL B319 Philosophy of Mind

In this course we will examine some of the core philosophical problems about the mind. Among the questions we will address are: What is the relationship between mind and body? What makes a particular state of a creature a mental state? Are minds a kind of computer? How do mental states manage to represent, or be about, other states of affairs? How can we account for various features of sensation and perception? What are thoughts, and do any non-human animals have them? What is consciousness, and does it show that there is something non-physical, or immaterial, about the mind? (Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL B321 Greek Political Philosophy: Aristotle: Ethics and Politics

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B320) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B323 Culture and Interpretation

This course will pursue such questions as the following. For all objects of interpretation, must there be a single right interpretation? If not, what is to prevent one from sliding into an interpretive anarchism? Does interpretation affect the nature or the number of an object of interpretation? Does the singularity or multiplicity of interpretations mandate either realism or constructivism or any other ontology? Discussions will be based on contemporary readings. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B323)

PHIL B325 Philosophy of Classical Music

This course will consider philosophical issues pertaining to the ontology of works of music, meaning and understanding of music, emotions and expressiveness of music, music and intentionality, scores in relation to performances, the idea of rightness of interpretation, music and morality, and music in relation to other arts and practices. Examples of works will be provided in class. Prerequisite: a 200-level philosophy course or a course in music, music theory or criticism, or permission of instructor. (Krausz, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B326 Relativism: Cognitive and Moral

Cognitive relativists believe that truth is relative to particular cultures or conceptual schemes. In an analogous way, moral relativists believe that moral rightness is relative to particular cultures or conceptual schemes. Relativistic theories of truth and morality are widely embraced in the current intellectual climate, and they are as perplexing as they are provocative. This course will examine varieties of relativism and their absolutistic counterparts. Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources. (Krausz, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B327 Political Philosophy in the 20th Century

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B327)

PHIL B329 Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein is notable for developing two philosophical systems. In the first, he attempted to show there is a single common structure underlying all language, thought and being, and that the job of philosophy was to make it clear. In the second, he denied the idea of such a structure was even coherent, and claimed that the job of philosophy was to free philosophers from bewitchments due to misunderstandings of ordinary concepts in language. The course begins by examining the first system in the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus and turns to his rejection of his earlier ideas in Philosophical Investigations and in On Certainty. (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as GERM B329) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B330 Kant

The significance of Kant's transcendental philosophy for thought in the 19th and 20th centuries cannot be overstated. His work is profoundly important for both the analytical and the so-called “continental” schools of thought. This course will provide a close study of Kant's breakthrough work: The Critique of Pure Reason. We will read and discuss the text with reference to its historical context (Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, Locke, etc.) and with respect to its impact on developments in epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion as well as developments in German Idealism and 20th-century phenomenology (Heidegger and Husserl). (Dostal, Division III) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B336 Plato: Later Dialogues

An examination of several so-called “late” dialogues, primarily Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman and Philebus. Special attention is given to the literary character of the dialogues, with thematic focus on dialectic and dialogic inquiry, Aristotelian modes of explanation and the Platonic images of the philosopher and the political leader. Fundamental ontological, epistemological and political questions are considered in these dialogues. (Dostal, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B336) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B338 Phenomenology: Husserl and Heidegger

This upper-level seminar will consider the two main proponents of phenomenology — a movement in philosophy in the 20th century that attempted to restart philosophy in a radical way. Its concerns are philosophically comprehensive: ontology, epistemology, philosophy of science, ethics and so on. Phenomenology provides the important background for other later developments in 20th-century philosophy and beyond: existentialism, deconstruction, post-modernism. This seminar will focus primarily on Edmund Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. Other writings to be considered include some of Heidegger's later work and Merleau-Ponty's preface to his Phenomenology of Perception. (Dostal, Division III)

PHIL B344 Development Ethics

This course explores the questions and moral issues raised by development in the context of globalization. Questions to be considered include: In what direction and by what means should a society develop? What are the obligations, if any, of rich countries to poor countries? What role, if any, should rich countries, international institutions and nongovernmental organizations have in the development or self-development of poor countries? To what extent, if any, do moral relativism, national sovereignty and universalism pose a challenge to cross-cultural ethical inquiry about theories of human flourishing, human rights and justice? (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B344) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B347 Philosophy of Perception

A discussion of several issues in the philosophy of perception. What exactly do we perceive? What is the role of concepts in our experience? What is the relation between perceptual experience and empirical judgment? Does our capacity to think depend on our ability to perceive? (Wallhagen, Division III)

PHIL 349 Social and Political Theory: Perspectives on Consent

Feminists have criticized many different social roles as being sexist. For example, many feminists argue that the traditional division of domestic labor is sexist because the social roles it assigns to women leaves them economically disadvantaged and unfairly dependent on their husbands. People sometimes respond to these sorts of criticisms by claiming that because these roles are freely chosen the decision to comply with them ought not to be criticized. The focus of this course will be an examination of this line of response. (Hay, Division III).

PHIL B364 Political Philosophy

(Elkins, Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as COML B364 and POLS B364) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B367 Hegel's Philosophy of Right

(Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B367) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B368 The Enlightenment and Its Critics

(Barker, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B368) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B371 Topics in Legal and Political Philosophy

(Elkins, Division I or III; cross-listed as POLS B371) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B372 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

(Kumar, Division II and Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B372) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B376 Citizenship and Migration

(Barker, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B376) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B384 Islamic Political Thought

(Harrold, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B384) Not offered in 2007-08.

PHIL B399 Senior Conference

Senior majors are required to write an undergraduate thesis on an approved topic. The senior conference is the course in which research and writing are directed. Seniors will meet collectively and individually with the supervising instructor. (Dostal, Division III)

PHIL B403 Supervised Work



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